©2002 Cascadia Times
10 western rivers trampled by the livestock industry
Yampa River - Colorado
the Park Service boot the cows?
Yampa River takes a notable place in the West's
long-running drama over river protection. Once at
the center of an historic fight over dams, the Yampa
now stands in the middle of a precedent-setting
dispute over grazing.
Yampa flows from the mountains of Moffatt and Routt
counties in the northwestern corner Colorado. As
the Yampa approaches the Green River and the Utah
border, it enters Dinosaur National Monument. Cattle
have grazed in the Monument for over a century,
but the National Park Service is now considering
a controversial plan to throw the cows out.
two environmental groups are preparing to take ranchers
to federal court in an effort to move cows off public
lands higher up in the Yampa basin. In an appeal
this year of one grazing permit, Sinapu, of Boulder,
Colo., and the Western Watersheds Project of Hailey,
Idaho, claimed that grazing threatens rare, sensitive
and declining species such as listed Colorado River
native fish and sage grouse in the Yampa basin.
They also said the Bureau of Land Management failed
to do what it could to reduce water quality problems
in the basin.
two groups' appeal of one grazing permit was denied
this year by the Interior Lands Board of Appeals,
but may resurface next year with 74 other contested
grazing permits in a federal lawsuit. The two groups
claim the BLM's grazing program in the Yampa basin
fails to comply with the agency's land-use plan
and violates the National Environmental Policy Act,
land-use plan, developed in the 1980s, is hopelessly
out of date," says Jon Marvel, executive director
of Western Watersheds.
appeal contended that the BLM failed to monitor
grazing damage in wetlands, including springs and
seeps, according to the groups' appeal. The BLM
has documented water quality problems in major streams,
but ignores damage to springs, small streams and
tributaries, the appeal said. The BLM also reported
that past water developments and fences protecting
springs have not been maintained, and allowed them
to be degraded. Yet the BLM persists in keeping
livestock numbers high, the complaint said.
John Husband, the BLM manager in the area, said
the agency is "managing the grazing program
to meet land health standards and improve resource
conditions. We're doing a great job, making positive
changes as necessary."
allotments covered by the appeal include potential
habitat for the four endangered Colorado fish- humpback
chub, bonytail chub, Colorado pike minnow and razorback
sucker, among other species. But the BLM denies
grazing harms those species.
BLM also violated its own regulations by failing
to determine whether stream temperatures or levels
of fecal coliform meet state water quality standards,
the complaint said.
grazing and irrigation diversions have taken a huge
toll this year on the Yampa. Flows at Maybell, upstream
from Dinosaur National Monument, have run at 10
percent of normal all summer long, and were at an
all-time low in August.
in the river could have been much worse. In the
1950s, the Bureau of Reclamation planned to build
two large dams inside Dinosaur National Monument--one
in Echo Park and the other near Split Mountain--as
part of the Upper Colorado River Storage Project.
Both dams would have inundated large areas in the
Yampa under a reservoir largely for the purpose
of irrigating hay and alfalfa for livestock.
in 1956, Congress passed a law banning Echo Park
dam, as well as all dams in National Parks and Monuments.
In 1960, Congress increased the park's size to 210,000
acres to protect the Yampa and Green River canyons.
It also ordered the eventual end of grazing within
the Monument's boundaries. Today, 42 years later,
the cows are still around. The Park Service is now
preparing an Environmental Impact Statement that
will evaluate the question of whether the cows should
go. The final EIS is due in November with a decision
coming in January 2003.
11 grazing allotments, of 80,000 acres, grazed by
nine pemittees, are allowed within the monument.
of those permittees is the Mantle family. When Dinosaur
expanded in 1938 and incorporated more than 200,000
acres of Bureau of Land Management lands, the Mantle
family received grazing rights on about 32,000 acres.
Mantles have allowed their cattle to roam into unauthorized
areas of Dinosaur Monument along the Yampa River.
Willows and other wetland vegetation have been stripped
bare, rare alcove bog orchids have been lost, and
microbiotic crusts that prevent erosion have been
crushed, according to the National Park Conservation
Association. The group said one side of the canyon
is trampled so badly it may take 200 years to return
it to its natural state.